The night I sang happy birthday to Jerry Lee Lewis !

For years I thought it was Jerry Lee’s 39th birthday but facts don’t lie so it had to be his 38th because in September of 1973 I had joined Bobby Comstock and we were doing a Richard Nader Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. We would open the show with about a 15 minute rock medley and Bobby would back any of the artists who didn’t have their own band. For the life of me I can’t remember any of the other acts except the two headliners which were Jerry lee and Chuck Berry. Bobby had told me there was always a chance of fireworks when these two were on the same bill because even though they were friends and had much mutual respect they both would insist on closing the show. No need to worry on this night though because at show time Jerry Lee and his band had not shown up so there was much concern among the promoters about how to arrange the show. About half way thru the  first half of the show ( an intermission was planned midway ) the stage door opened and in walked Jerry’s drummer Tarp Tarrant and his long time guitar player and brother in law Kenneth Lovelace with Jerry’s road manager informing the staff that if Jerry was going to perform you had better get him on fast and  have him close the first half of the show because they had all been celebrating Jerry’s birthday back in Louisiana  a day earlier and had all passed out in Jerry’s back yard only to be roused by his  manager earlier this morning informing them that they had a flight to catch. Tarp who looked still  very much in the ‘party mood’ himself told me they had all forgotten about the gig. Kenny Lovelace was as fine a gentleman as you would ever want to meet and I told him I was a long time fan of his work with Jerry. Jerry Lee appeared to be in a semi coma when he blew in and was quickly hustled to his dressing room. This was going to be an interesting show for sure. Anyone who knows me knows that i am a huge Jerry Lee fan. I think he is one of the greatest talents that ever was. The promoter had it planned that  when Jerry Lee took the stage he would tell the audience it was Jerry Lee’s birthday and have everyone sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him which of course we all did, no one louder than me I might add. Jerry was a little wobbly and sat down at the piano breaking into a Jimmy Reed song and when he opened his mouth to sing sounded like he was speaking in tongues ! He quickly ‘righted the ship’ and put on a classic Jerry Lee show and proved once again why he is known as ‘the killer’. Somewhere in my archives I have a cassette of the show since I wanted to see him from the audience and always traveled with my portable cassette player. Jerry Lee just celebrated his 80th birthday and was married for the 7th time. His new record is called ‘Rock and Roll Time’ and I’m happy to say that one of my biggest idols and strongest influences is still ‘Rockin’ his life away’., and once more I say to ‘the killer’ happy birthday with many more to come.

Linda Kelly